The PhD in Biophysics

The PhD in Biophysics

Requirements for the Ph.D. in Biophysics


First Year

Three six-week rotations


Fall Semester

Core Course in Integrative Biosciences (BIMS 6000)


Spring Semester

Biophysical Foundations of Molecular and Cellular Physiology (Faham and Tamm) (Spring Module 1)


Molecular Interactions and Driving Forces (Peter Kasson and Michael Wiener) (Spring Module 2)


Responsible Conduct of Research (Research Ethics)

Biophysics and Physiology Journal Club

Second Year

Biology at Atomic Resolution: Foundations of Crystallography and NMR (Bushweller and Derewenda) (Fall Module 1)


Other requirements

·         Students are required to take at least one additional elective module on any topic.

·         Students will also be required to attend the Biophysics and Physiology journal club throughout their graduate careers.

·         Students must maintain a graduate GPA of at least 3.0.

·         Students entering with a Master’s degree may request an exemption from the Core Course in Integrative Biosciences if previous graduate course work and research experience are deemed comparable.  One or two of the rotations may be waived if the student has previous experience in the lab.


Qualifying Exam

Students are expected to write and orally defend the Thesis Proposal by September 1 at the beginning of the third year. If the student enters with a Master’s degree, they are expected to write and orally defend the thesis proposal by January 1 of the second year.


Thesis Proposal:

The student prepares a written proposal for their thesis project in the form of an NIH R01 grant proposal.  The student should use the instructions for the NIH Standard Form 424 Grant application to help prepare the proposal.  The document will be presented orally to the student's selected thesis committee, which includes the thesis advisor(s), and at least three other tenure track faculty members (minimum of four members).  At least one faculty member must be from outside the home department of the thesis mentor and acts as the representative of the Graduate Faculty.  Faculty with secondary or guest appointments in the home department are not eligible to act as the representative.  The eligible faculty are those recognized by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).  Eligible faculty generally does not include faculty with clinical appointments except those with secondary appointments in a basic science department, or those who have approved membership in GSAS.  Faculty with primary appointments in departments in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (i.e., Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, etc.) are generally eligible.  The committee may decide to award a full pass, conditional pass, or fail. The committee will provide detailed critiques to the student in order to meet the conditions to fully pass, or to help improve the thesis proposal and the oral defense in the case of a fail. The student must pass the qualifying exam on the second attempt or the program will recommend dismissal from the Graduate School.


Thesis Defense:

Requirements for the Dissertation and Final Examination are as described at the Graduate School for Arts and Sciences (GSAS) website.  The time limit for completion of the Ph.D. is seven years from the beginning of matriculation as a graduate student at the University of Virginia, but most students finish within five years.


During the semester the student will graduate, the student must:

(1) File the Ph.D. Degree Application [link to] with Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.  The deadlines are October 1, February 1 or July 1 for the fall, spring or summer semesters, respectively.

(2) File the Unsigned Title Page [link to]of the thesis with GSAS.  The deadlines are November 1, April 1 or July 1 for the fall, spring or summer semesters, respectively.

(3) File the finalized, signed dissertation along with the signed Final Examination and Microfilm Agreement Forms [link to] with GSAS.  The deadlines are December 1, May 1 or August 1 for the fall, spring or summer semesters, respectively.


Click here for the Physical Standards of the thesis, a sample title page and checklist of graduation requirements.

Click here for graduation forms.

Please see Pam Mullinex ( for assistance in filling out the form.


The oral defense will be done in two parts: (1) the public defense, which is in the form of a formal publically advertised seminar, followed by (2) the private defense which is a private session with only the thesis committee.  Generally, this is the same committee that heard the thesis proposal, but the membership can change according to the discretion of the student and advisor. The same rules apply as to its make-up of faculty members.


The scheduling of the thesis defense is up to the student and advisor.  Please provide the date the Program Director and Pam Mullinex so that the seminar location can be booked and the announcement prepared and distributed.  Please note the deadlines above for graduating in a given semester.


The content of the dissertation and expectations of the student are left to the discretion of the thesis committee.  The thesis committees are expected to uphold the highest possible academic standards of the University of Virginia within ethical boundaries outlined in the School of Medicine Faculty Handbook.